Bank gamble pays off for Odey's flagship hedge fund

The City financier Crispin Odey recorded a 24 per cent return in his flagship hedge fund last year, powered by daring investments in companies such as Barclays and BSkyB.

The Odey European fund saw its assets grow to $1.8bn (£1.1bn) during the first 10 months of the year, according to new data, making it the second-best-performing hedge fund in Europe and the fifth best in the world.

The strong performance contrasts sharply with the 20.3 per cent drop the fund recorded in 2011 when a number of Mr Odey's investments backfired. These included Barclays, whose shares fell 33 per cent in 2011 but rose 49 per cent last year despite being embroiled in the Libor-rigging scandal and suffering the loss of its chief executive Bob Diamond.

Other investments to serve the fund well in 2012 included the retailer Sports Direct, where Mr Odey backed a multi-million pound bonus for the company's founder, Mike Ashley, labelling him a "genius".

Mr Odey and his wife, Nichola Pease, are worth £455m, according to the last Sunday Times Rich List. He took home £9.4m in pay last year, 6 per cent lower than a year earlier following his fund's poor performance in 2011.

The 53-year-old, who hit the headlines last year when he submitted plans for a £120,000 chicken house in the grounds of his Grade II-listed country estate in the Forest of Dean, will be hoping for a repeat of 2012's performance this year.

In October, he increased his holding in troubled rival Man Group to 5 per cent, recently describing the company as "an amazing selling machine".

He has also turned his attentions to the Coalition Government.

"David Cameron is not a leader," he said in an interview. "He doesn't understand power and he doesn't use it." He added: "George [Osborne], we [the City] hate more than Dave."

Overall, Odey Asset Management, the Odey European fund's parent company, controls about $5bn worth of assets.

The new figures from Bloomberg named the United States-based Metacapital Management as the world's best-performing hedge fund after it grew 38 per cent by betting on mortgages.

In Europe, Michael Hintze's London-based CQS fund was the best performer, returning 28.9 per cent last year, having fallen by 10.4 per cent in 2011.

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